Outside the box : creativity in modern conceptual engineering design, demonstrated by two case studies

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2011
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- Creativity is characterised by the designer’s capability to find solutions to existing design problems beyond existing norms, whereby general agreement suggest creative products to be both novel and useful. This aptitude constitutes a key component in modem conceptual engineering design, invaluable for conceiving new ideas, which are expanded, assessed, developed, refined, and implemented as part of an iterative problem solving process. Yet conceptual engineering design is multifaceted and inherently difficult to analyse; its complex nature involves numerous stakeholders dealing with a multitude of often conflicting design options and variables, mandating informed trade-off decisions. Despite the recognition of design research as a vital field, successful creative engineering design presents a challenge that personifies more as creative engineering art than science. Suitable design tools and procedures, and their skilful and effective use, are therefore of utmost importance, as most of the product or system cost is committed within the early conceptualisation stage. This dissertation aims to shed light on the complex realities designers face when embarking upon new engineering endeavours, particularly within the area of product design for mass production. This is accomplished in three parts, each of which constitutes a separate entity that can be explored individually. The first part discusses the nature of creative thought in the context of conceptual engineering design (design theory), and elucidates the specific features of a new model, the Creative Conceptual Design (CCD) architecture. This straightforward non- prescriptive design model provides structure and transparency, epitomising three essential interconnected traits, branded the Three Pillars of Creative Design: a systematic design process; suitable creative design tools; and a detailed understanding of the design context. It presents a collective visual frame of reference to guide designers through the complexities of modern conceptual engineering design. The second and third parts of this dissertation portray the application of the proposed CCD framework to two case studies in the field of mechanical design, providing a real- world in-situ context for its demonstration and validation. Thereby, case study related ideation and design activities are discussed, from problem analysis and idea conception to concept development, refinement, and final verification. The research and development activities pertinent to the two case studies have produced two technically feasible and verified design concepts: firstly, a new inexpensive mechanical fuel injection system capable of curbing small engine emissions has been developed as part of the PSI project; secondly, two enhanced positive displacement mechanisms suitable for oil-less gas compression have been conceived and tested as part of the OLC project, which involved major new research in water-lubricated bearing technology. In the absence of concrete data and knowledge, typical of unconventional outside the box solutions, empirical concept evaluation and verification (hardware-in- the-loop) played a key role in both projects.
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